Tradition has it that anyone –maybe everyone – older than you feels the need to weigh in with advice, anecdotes and other bromides to make us feel important. We’ll try to skip that and get right to the point: We believe in you.

You have come of age too early, in some of the toughest years our country has seen. You were newborn when the planes hit the twin towers in 2001, and on the cusp of your high school graduation there have again been massacres in schools.

Technology has brought us together but only superficially. We glom together for identity politics, but we launch drone missiles to remotely destroy buildings, nature and people half a world away.

Discourse has fallen to a new low. People do and say hateful things because they can. The president selected by the Electoral College communicates in hyperbolic tweets and dismisses unpleasant reality as “fake news.” 

We wish things had been different for you, that you could feel safe – no, we wish that we could feel that you are safe – in schools, on the streets, at the movies – in your public and private places. And you probably wish those things, too.

So while we are not handing you the best of all possible worlds, we have no doubt that the world is getting the best in you. You have learned many things just by being together for four years. You learned to think, debate, accept and collaborate. You learned to listen and treat people with respect and dignity. You created things in the laboratory and in music and art classes; you built a house for a family of little means; you participated in sports and speech teams and won tournaments; you learned new languages; you wrote for your school newspaper; you designed sets for and acted in plays that explore and expose our humanity. And you, as ETHS students always do, stood up for social justice. In his commencement address, Mayor Stephen Hagerty described how you stood for gender equality and against gun violence.

So you will go on, strengthened by your high school experiences and tempered by the reality that informs our world. May what you have learned here give you the confidence to right old wrongs and meet new challenges with wit and compassion. We believe you can. We will be cheering you on.